Baker is probably best known for the starring role of Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford from 1987-2000 on ITV, although his previous notable roles included the BBC’s legendary I, Claudius in the key role of Tiberius and various appearances in the James Bond series, in particular the key role of Sir Hilary Bray in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (as well as appearances in You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me). Baker found himself dubbing star George Lazenby’s dialogue as the Australian’s accent was considered too broad to realistically impersonate Bray while undercover.
George Baker was born April 1st, 1931 in the city of Varna, Bulgaria, where his father was honorary vice consul. He appeared in repertory after leaving Lancing College, appeared at the Old Vic and began his film and television career in the 1950s, appearing in wartime classic The Dam Busters. A string of high-profile roles followed, with Baker easily able to pick and choose as he switched between stage, TV and cinema.
It was in 1980 that he appeared as Login in Andrew Smith‘s Full Circle, the first installment of the E-Space Trilogy. In the story, Login is a respected member of the Starliner community on Alzarius, and throughout the course of the events of the serial he finds himself as one of the three Deciders who govern their people. Despite a couple of dated visual effects sequences, Full Circle is one of the most memorable episodes from the 1980 season, featuring an interesting scientific concept; if you haven’t seen it yet, you should certainly begin making arrangements to do so.
Following his starring role as Wexford, Baker’s TV roles were restricted to prominent guest appearances, with Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) (2001), Coronation Street (2003), Midsomer Murders and Spooks (both 2005) among his guest appearances.
Naturally it is sad to lose another great British actor, and one associated with Doctor Who, but Baker’s achievements even surpass encountering the Time Lord. As well as acting, he was a talented scriptwriter and producer, and his 1980 BBC2 play The Fatal Spring won a United Nations peace award for its portrayal of the first world war poets Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves.
Baker is survived by four daughters from his first marriage and one from his second; he married three times, to the costume designer Julia Squires, to Sally Home, and to Louie Ramsay, his on-screen wife in the Inspector Wexford series.
George Baker died from pneumonia on October 7th, 2011, and will be widely missed.
Obituaries to George Baker can be found at: